There’s 135 kilometres of coastline from Busselton to Augusta with no fewer than 75 surf breaks that produce extraordinary waves – waves so good that they attract the world’s best, who travel the globe following the big swell, chasing the perfect big wave.
In fact, it’s considered to be one of the most consistent big wave surf places on the planet. There’s kudos that comes with riding big waves and awards for those who conquer them. Mick Corbett, who lives in Dunsborough, took out the 2016 Oakley Ride Of The Year award on a wave known as The Right in Walpole (three hours south east of Margaret River) earning $20,000 in prize money.
Mick told Surfing Australia: “Jarryd [towing me in on a jetski] turned around to me with a big grin and said, ‘don’t even look at it, it’s big!’ So I didn’t really look at the wave as I was being towed in, I just looked down the line and tried to put myself in a perfect position. I didn’t really know what was going on behind me; I was just trying to position myself to get barrelled. I didn’t realise how big it was until I got back into the channel and all of the photographers were shaking their heads in disbelief calling it the biggest wave they have ever seen out there.”
That wave, The Right, certainly was big that day at between 30 and 40ft, but it’s the sheer power of that wave that makes it so tricky to surf. “What I love about big-wave surfing is the adventure and the thrill of it. No session is the same. You track these swells for weeks and then you make a call whether to pursue them,” the 30-year-old said. “Then you go and chase the swell and a lot of these swells take you to some of the most beautiful places in the world. Then you get there, you generally know most of the people there and you’re watching the ocean do some crazy things. You could sit there all day watching, it’s mesmerising.”
It might be mesmerising to Mick, but the thought of trying to survive on a monstrous moving mountain of water that could crush bones or throw you around like a washing machine or worse, is frightening to many. Does he ever get scared? “Yeah for sure I get scared, nearly every time I go out I get nervous. But after you have had a couple of waves you really get in sync with the ocean and then you can really start opening up your surfing and charging the biggest waves that come through. It is the best feeling in the world to ride a big wave – no other activity or person can make you feel the way you do when you’re out there.”
Mick says that the biggest break in the Margaret River Region that fires in winter is Cow Bombie, located two kilometres offshore west of Gracetown. “It’s the biggest and gnarliest wave in Australia but it requires the right swell for it to break,” Mick said. “The biggest wave I have ever surfed in the Margaret River Region, and in fact in Australia, was at Cow Bombie in 2014. That was the biggest day I have ever seen out there, it was around 60 foot and the cleanest. It was also when I rode the biggest barrel I have ever surfed.”
When asked what words of advice he’d give an up-and-coming surfer who wants to ride big waves, Mick said: “Just surf the waves you want. And work your way to bigger waves. Also make sure you have the right mentality about it.”
Image Credit: (cover) Jamie Scott, (above) Mauro Correira, (below) Andrew Semark Photography, Surfer: Mick Corbett